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What is Water Pollution? Sources, Causes, Prevention

  • Last Updated : 26 Sep, 2021

Water is one of the most important natural resources on the planet, and it has existed for millennia. In reality, the same water we drink has been around in some form or another since the dinosaur era. More than two-thirds of the earth’s surface is covered with water. This equates to1 octillion litres (1,260,000,000,000,000,000,000 litres) of water dispersed over the oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams. Although this is a large amount of water, only about 0.3 % of it is suitable for human consumption. That number has decreased as commercialization and industrialization have developed. Furthermore, water contamination has been caused by inefficient and obsolete techniques, a lack of understanding, and a variety of other factors.

Water Pollution

The polluting of water bodies is referred to as water pollution. Water pollution occurs when industrial and agricultural effluents contaminate water bodies such as rivers, lakes, oceans, groundwater, and aquifers. When water becomes contaminated, it has a negative impact on all lifeforms that rely on it, whether directly or indirectly. Contamination of water will have long-term consequences.

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Sources of Water Pollution

The following are some of the most frequent water pollutants:

  • Industrial effluents
  • Domestic waste
  • Insecticides and pesticides are both used to kill insects.
  • Fertilizers and Detergents

Direct Sources, such as industries, waste management facilities, refineries, and other facilities that dump waste and toxic by-products into the nearby water source without treatment, are responsible for some of the water pollution. Pollutants that enter water bodies indirectly include those that enter through groundwater, soil, or the atmosphere as acid rain.

Causes of Water Pollution

Most Anthropogenic causes account for the majority of water contamination. This means that humans are to blame for water pollution. The introduction of pollutants into a body of water is known as water pollution. These can have negative consequences for the species that reside in or interact with the water. However, water contamination can also be caused by natural processes or phenomena.

Water is known as the universal solvent because of its ability to dissolve a wide range of compounds. This is also the reason why water pollution is so common. The following are some of the factors that contribute to water pollution:

  • Sewage and wastewater: Many households dump their garbage into bodies of water. Furthermore, houses that do not have access to a municipal treatment facility may use septic tanks, which eventually infiltrate into the soil and pollute groundwater.
  • Industrial effluents and Industrial Usage: Some companies may discharge their untreated wastes directly into bodies of water, such as rivers. Furthermore, a variety of sectors use water as a coolant, resulting in thermal pollution. Increased water temperatures can lead to a fall in oxygen levels, which can kill fish and other species.
  • Eutrophication: Eutrophication occurs when a huge amount of nutrients is injected into a body of water, causing algae to develop rapidly. This can lower the oxygen level in the water, making it impossible for the fish to breathe. Furthermore, this occurrence has the potential to release harmful poisons into the water, which can hurt or kill most species, including people.
  • Deforestation: Soil erosion can be caused by deforestation. When loose soil particles enter a body of water, they can cause the water to become murky. This can make the water muddy, and it also has the ability to harm aquatic organisms mechanically (such as sand particles getting stuck in gills).
  • Agricultural run-offs: Fertilizers and other chemicals found in agricultural run-off can contaminate water. Furthermore, several of these fertilisers have the potential to cause eutrophication.
  • Accidents: Leaks and oil spills are two examples of accidents. Oil spills are very harmful to the environment and marine life. It occurs when incidents involving huge oil tankers, barges, or drilling rigs occur. The Deep Water Horizon oil disaster, which happened on April 20, 2010, was the most well-known.

Effects of Water Pollution

The impact of water pollution is determined by the type and concentration of contaminants. The placement of water bodies is also a key element in determining pollution levels.

  1. In the vicinity of metropolitan areas, water bodies are very contaminated. This is the result of industrial and commercial businesses dumping rubbish and harmful substances.
  2. Water contamination has a significant impact on aquatic life. It has an effect on their metabolism and behaviour, as well as causing illness and death. Dioxin is a toxin that can cause a variety of issues, ranging from infertility to uncontrolled cell proliferation and cancer. Bioaccumulation of this chemical has been found in fish, chicken, and beef. Before reaching the human body, chemicals like these go up the food chain.
  3. Water pollution can have a significant impact on the food chain. It throws the food chain into disarray. Cadmium and lead are hazardous chemicals that, if they enter the food chain via animals (fish eaten by animals, humans), can cause further disruption at higher levels.
  4. Pollution affects humans, and diseases such as hepatitis can be contracted through faecal matter in water sources. Infectious disorders such as cholera, etc., can always be caused by poor drinking water treatment and unfit water.
  5. Because of water pollution, the ecosystem can be severely harmed, changed, and destructured.

Pollution of River Ganga

Pollution of the water supply has become a global issue. Because of the uncontrolled and uneven development of linked sectors like industries and agriculture, the perennial threat of a water crisis is intensifying. According to NITI Aayog studies, 21 major Indian cities, including Delhi, may run out of groundwater totally. Now, we’re going to discuss the reasons behind the pollution of the river Ganga and it examines the effective measures taken by the government.

Reasons behind the Pollution of Ganga:

  1. Industries: In Uttarakhand, there are 4600 industries, 298 of which are significantly polluting. Many enterprises have started operations despite not having obtained authorization from the Uttarakhand pollution control board, and they did so based on a government recommendation that exempted certain groups of industries from obtaining approval. Despite the government’s tight laws, sewage treatment and advanced waste treatment technology are not used.
  2. Sewage: Sewage is a significant source of pollution, accounting for 75 % of all pollution. Various types of urban growth lead to sewage contamination in the river. The Ganga Action Plan’s tremendous efforts have failed to ameliorate the situation. According to the research, despite the failure of the Ganga Action Plan, citizens and their representatives living in urban areas along the river’s banks have expressed no opposition. The failure is attributable to the government entities in charge of the plan’s effective implementation. The river’s cleanliness appears to be unimportant to the city dwellers who live around it. 
  3. Municipal Corporation: The widespread usage of plastic and its inappropriate disposal eventually end up in the river. One of the major causes of pollution in the river has been identified as plastic contamination. To combat the threat of plastic pollution, the government has failed to enact Management and Sewage Waste Rules. Plastic should be outlawed entirely by the government. The authorities are unconcerned about the widespread usage of plastics and the inappropriate management of rubbish before dumping it into the river. Because of plastic waste, water contamination has increased dramatically. 
  4. Agriculture Waste: Sediments, fertilisers, and animal wastes all contribute to agricultural water contamination. Water pollution has been greatly exacerbated by the unbalanced use of inorganic and other fertilisers. After reaching various other entities, nitrate-rich fertilisers produce hazardous makeup. When large amounts of fertilisers are washed into the river by irrigation, rain, or drainage, the river becomes polluted. To increase the productivity of the land, nitrate-rich fertilisers are utilised. 

Effective Measures by Government to Stop the Pollution

Ganga Action Plan



The Ganga Action Plan was established in 1986 to combat pollution in the Ganga River. The main goal of this strategy was to clean up the Ganga River by removing pollution caused by trash disposal from cities along the river’s banks. The goal was to clean up the Ganga from Rishikesh to Kolkata. In 1984, the central pollution control board devised a five-year plan to clean up the Ganga. To clean up the Ganga, the central Ganga authority was established in 1985, and a Ganga action plan was initiated in 1986. 

The Ganga Action Plan’s first phase was launched by late Rajiv Gandhi at Banaras’ Rajendra Prasad Ghat. Its implementation was entrusted to the National Protection Agency. 256 programmes totalling 462 crores were implemented during the first phase of the Ganga Action Plan in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal. To check the purity of the water, special stations have been set up. The water quality was tested by professionals from Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited and the National Environment Engineering Research Institute. 

Despite all of the effort, the Ganga action plan failed horribly, despite the fact that crores of dollars were spent on it. Economic pollution has resulted from the failure of such a large plan. In 2001, the government began the second phase of the Ganga Action Plan, which is being implemented by the central pollution board, central public works department, and public works department.

Namami Ganga Programme

Under the river rehabilitation effort, a flagship Namami Ganga Program was formed under a separate union Water Ministry. The initiative intends to incorporate the Ganga conservation mission, which is in action to clean and conserve the river while also providing socio-economic advantages to the river’s dependent population through job development, improved livelihoods, and health benefits. 

The Namami Ganga projects have made significant progress in the following areas:

  • Creating sewage treatment capacity: 63 sewerage management projects are now being implemented in the states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal to increase sewage treatment capacity. In these projects, 12 sewage management projects were launched.
  • Creating riverside development: Construction, management, and refurbishment of 182 ghats and 118 crematoria has begun on 28 riverfront development projects and 33 entry-level projects.
  • River surface cleaning: The collecting of solid floating waste on the ghats and rivers is known as river surface cleaning. These wastes are piped into treatment facilities after being collected.
  • Public Awareness: Seminars, workshops, and conferences, as well as a variety of other activities, are held to educate the public and improve community transmission.
  • Industrial Effluent Monitoring: The Grossly Polluting Industries are regularly monitored. Environmental compliances are checked in industries that follow the stated norm. Without the use of intermediaries, the reports are submitted directly to the central pollution control board.

Prevention of Water Pollution

The greatest strategy to avoid large-scale water contamination is to strive to mitigate its negative consequences. We may make a number of minor changes to safeguard ourselves from a frightening future in which water is scarce.

  1. Save Water: Our primary goal is to conserve water. Water waste is a big problem around the world, and we are only now becoming aware of it. Small modifications that you may make at home can make a big effect.
  2. Better treatment of sewage: As a result, processing waste materials before disposing of them in a water body aids in the reduction of large-scale water pollution. By lowering the hazardous content of the wastewater, agriculture and other businesses may reuse it.
  3. Use environmentally friendly products: We can limit the quantity of water pollution created by a household by using soluble items that do not become pollutants.

Sample Questions

Question 1: What is thermal water pollution?

Answer:

The rise and fall in temperature of a natural body of water induced by human intervention is known as thermal pollution. And, unlike chemical pollution, thermal pollution causes a change in the physical qualities of water.



Question 2: What is sewage treatment?

Answer:

The process of cleaning or removing all contaminants, treating wastewater, and making it safe and appropriate for drinking before releasing it into the environment is referred to as wastewater treatment or sewage treatment.

Question 3: What are the main causes of water pollution?

Answer:

Water pollution is caused by a variety of factors.

  1. Activities related to industry
  2. Urbanization
  3. Social and religious customs
  4. Runoff from agriculture
  5. Accidents happen (such as oil spills, nuclear fallouts etc)

Question 4: What are the effects of water pollution?

Answer:

Water contamination has the potential to devastate the ecology. Furthermore, hazardous chemicals can enter our bodies through the food chain, causing diseases and death.

Question 5: What are the main steps in sewage treatment?

Answer: 

The wastewater treatment process is divided into four stages:

  • Screening,
  • Primary treatment,
  • Secondary treatment, and
  • Final treatment.

Question 6: What is Water pollution?

Answer: 

The polluting of water bodies is referred to as water pollution. Water pollution occurs when industrial and agricultural effluents contaminate water bodies such as rivers, lakes, oceans, groundwater, and aquifers. When water becomes contaminated, it has a negative impact on all lifeforms that rely on it, whether directly or indirectly. Contamination of water will have long-term consequences.

Question 7: What are the methods of prevention of water pollution?

Answer:

The greatest strategy to avoid large-scale water contamination is to strive to mitigate its negative consequences. We may make a number of minor changes to safeguard ourselves from a frightening future in which water is scarce.

  1. Save Water: Our primary goal is to conserve water. Water waste is a big problem around the world, and we are only now becoming aware of it. Small modifications that you may make at home can make a big effect.
  2. Better treatment of sewage: As a result, processing waste materials before disposing of them in a water body aids in the reduction of large-scale water pollution. By lowering the hazardous content of the wastewater, agriculture and other businesses may reuse it.
  3. Use environmentally friendly products: We can limit the quantity of water pollution created by a household by using soluble items that do not become pollutants.



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